Ken Eisold: Does Apple boss Steve Jobs deserve his halo?

2nd September 2011

The idealized glow of a halo makes it hard to see clearly – and to think straight.  We are reminded about this now as Steve Jobs has stepped down as Apple's CEO, and the press is full of dire warnings about the company's future.

An account of Job's career in Newsweek is suffused with idealizations.  At the same time, offering a retrospective of his career, it reminds us that his life, like most of ours, has been checquered and filled with its share of mistakes.

Most of us probably have not forgotten that he was booted out of Apple for being a poor manager before he was brought back.  

"In his second tour of duty at Apple he mastered all the less glamorous but highly important aspects of business that had eluded him at first-things like inventory management," writes Newsweek.  

Returning, he found a second in command who was good at just those things he wasn't.  And he also learned a lot about listening to others. Nonetheless, "The company lost $247 million in the last quarter of 2000. CBS Marketwatch named Jobs one of the year's biggest losers."  (See "Exit the King")

I do not in any way want to take away from Jobs' brilliant achievements at Apple.  The point is about us, and our susceptibility to hero worship.  It's about how hard it is for investors to think straight and keep in touch with reality.

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